When its extensive restorations are complete, the 11-story tower will likely be filled with offices and agencies that will form a cornerstone of the city’s downtown. A restaurant on the tower’s top floor? Don’t chuckle; as Star editor at large John Fleming wrote Monday, that’s a far-off thought from the tower’s project manager, James Lloyd, that doesn’t necessarily sound so far-fetched.
In other words, the tower will be an Anniston asset — not an everyday eyesore.
So, Annistonians, what’s next on the agenda? Let’s pick Anniston’s next project that, when completed, can become a billboard that proudly advertises the city’s growth, not its decay.
Is it a building such as the tower — the former AmSouth Building — that needs renovation?
Is it the revitalization of an Anniston neighborhood, from the Noble Street corridor to the 15th Street business district to Lenlock to areas adjacent to Alabama 202?
Is it something social, a positive reaffirmation of how Annistonians of all races and faiths live as coworkers, as neighbors, and as family members in these often-divisive times?
Is it an alteration of how we view Anniston’s commercial and retail development — what industries do we want? What businesses should City Hall go after? What best suits this town’s profound needs?
When answering those questions, keep the mental image of the renovated Watermark Tower close at hand.
In this discussion, the tower is an example of what’s possible in Anniston when city leaders refuse to give up on a worthwhile civic project. It’s a lesson in doggedness and persistence.
Seven years ago, the tower caught fire, essentially putting the building’s present and its future on ice. Delays in financing hampered the tower’s complicated rebirth. But a core group of people, most notably Anniston Water Works General Manager Jim Miller, remained steadfast in its belief that downtown Anniston must have the Watermark Tower repaired. Anything less would be an embarrassing sign of downtown rot.
That may be the true value of this tower.
Annistonians need persistence for the projects vital to the city’s next generation. Our opinions may vary on the selection of the next priority, but the trait of persistence — of not giving up on worthy ideas — is good for all.
The tower is proof that difficult projects can succeed in Anniston. With good intentions, civic diligence and a lack of needless obstructionists, endeavors such as the Watermark Tower renovation are possible. The tower offers the evidence.
So, Anniston, what’s next? Look up at the tower, where the sky truly is in sight.